Dan Harris on Mindful Meditation

“I’m talking about mindfulness meditation, which is the kind of meditation that has been the focus of most of the scientific studies.  It is simple, and secular… you don’t have to join a group, you don’t have to wear special outfits, you don’t have to believe in anything. … I’ll explain how to do it. … It’s not super complicated.”

This video is a few weeks old now, but I thought it’s worth sharing.  Dan Harris does a good job explaining mindful meditation without any crystally, new-age nonsense.  He also explains it without any of its Buddhist history which, though it may be very interesting and appealing and even (wait for it…) enlightening, can be separated from the meditation, the same way folks can separate Hinduism from yoga to just focus on the physical practice.  

I’ve yet to read Harris’ book, 10% Happier, but this interview feels like a good standalone summary, especially if you ignore Charlie Rose’s tangents on napping.  

The interview gets to meditation about seven minutes in, and covers its benefits and how Harris himself came to it, but my favorite part is near the end, about 19-minutes in, when Harris explains how to meditate:

  1. “Sit with your spine straight and your eyes closed.”
  2. “Focus your full attention on the feeling of your breath coming in and going out.” 
  3. “As soon as you try to focus on the feeling of your breath, your mind is going to go nuts.  It’s just going to start wandering.  You’re going to be asking yourself silly questions, you’re going to be doing your todo list, whatever.  And then, you just want to notice when your mind has gotten carried away, and then start over, and then start over again, and again.  And every time you do this, it’s like a bicep curl for the brain.”

That's it.  Harris goes on to suggest this is “a radical act.  Most of us have trouble paying attention to the present moment. … Our life is a fog, we are wrapped up in rumination about the past and projection into the future.”  

With mindful meditation, then, you can learn to drop all that and live in the moment.

I’m new to this mindfulness business, I've been at it only about six weeks.  It was something I’d encountered so many times, from so many disparate sources and over so many years, that I finally decided to try it.  I’ll note some thoughts on my experience later (it does seem to be "working", but the whole being-in-the-moment thing confounds me) but for now I just wanted to share the video.